Archive for the ‘macro photography’ Category

Mastering Macro Photography

September 23, 2022

What if I told you an expert macro photographer is ready, willing, and able to answer your questions, for free? It’s true! All you need to do is watch a one-hour long live-stream on YouTube every Tuesday from 8 pm to 9 pm Central Time Zone.

The program descriptor is as follows.

Mastering Macro Photography is a weekly Q&A for anyone trying to learn closeup photography, and is brought to you by @Allan Walls Photography. The livestream is for all macro photographers, at every level from beginner to seasoned expert. As a dedicated and experienced macro photography teacher, Allan has made hundreds of videos and written as many articles on every aspect of closeup and macro photography and can answer all your questions on cameras, lenses, accessories, focus stacking, insect preparation, editing and retouching, focus stacking software, or anything else you need to know – and he does it all with his trademark sense of humor. So if you want to learn some macro photography and have a few laughs at the same time, you have come to the right place. Source Credit: Allan Walls Photography.

Tech Tips

The Central Time Zone is five hours earlier than Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) when Daylight Saving Time is in effect in the United States of America; six hours earlier when Standard time is in effect.

Time Zone Converter with GMT time difference can help you figure out the correct time to watch Allan’s live-stream from other locations around the world.

Viewers pose questions by typing comments during the live-stream.

Related Resources

A recorded version of each live-stream program is available online, including a transcript of the Q&A chat. Programs are listed in reverse chronological order.

Copyright © 2022 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Iberian odonate larvae

September 16, 2022

During late-October 2021, I was contacted by Miguel A. Conesa-García, PhD, Profesor Tutor Biología, Diversidad Animal, Ciencias Ambientales, UNED-Málaga.

Miguel was working on finishing the second edition of his book about odonate larvae in the Iberian Peninsula (Spain and Portugal). When Miguel was almost finished, an adult male Wandering Glider dragonfly (Pantala flavescens) was spotted in Spain. P. flavescens is a new species of odonate for the region, so Miguel decided to add the new discovery to the species list in his book.

Cover photo, courtesy Amazon Books.

The following screen capture shows the search string I used to find the book on Amazon.

Screen capture, Amazon Books.

The book is richly illustrated with beautiful photos and diagrams. It’s abundantly evident I could learn a lot from the book — I wish there were an English Edition!

Miguel requested permission to use a photo of a Wandering Glider exuvia in my photoblog, published on 14 November 2018. I was, of course, willing to help.

Page excerpt from Miguel’s book, featuring my photo.

I’m mentioned in the acknowledgements at the end of the book. Regrettably my first name is misspelled and the Web address cited is no longer current. I took the liberty of annotating the page from Miguel’s book to provide the correct information.

Acknowledgements, p. 539 (annotated).

Acknowledgements, p. 539 (original).

Migratory Dragonflies

Wandering Glider is one of at least five major species of dragonflies known to be migratory in North America. P. flavescens is the only species of odonate known to occur on every continent except Antarctica.

The exuvia that I photographed is the “cast skin” from an odonate larva (nymph) that was collected in the field by Andy Davidson, a graduate student at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Virginia USA. Andy reared the larva in the laboratory as part of a research project entitled “Predator-Prey Interactions in a Changing World.”

Part of the value in rearing odonate larvae in the laboratory is knowing with certainty that an exuvia is from a particular species. This is perhaps the reason that Miguel chose to use my photo.

Related Resources

Copyright © 2022 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Fujifilm/Fringer/Canon MP-E 65mm macro lens

September 9, 2022

In a recent blog post I mentioned that I was looking forward to testing the Fringer EF-FX Pro II lens mount adapter with my Canon MP-E 65mm Macro lens.

The MP-E 65mm doesn’t have a ring for focusing on the subject — you set the magnification ratio (from 1x to 5x) and move the camera/lens rig back and forth until the subject is in focus. For all photos, I focused on one eye of the model.


The first studio model is a toy Dimetron, photographed at a magnification ratio of 1:1. The toy is ~3.6 cm (~36 mm) long. The size of the APS-C sensor in the Fujifilm X-T3 is 23.5 mm x 15.6 mm. At 1x magnification, the entire length of the toy doesn’t fit on screen.

Dimetron toy | 1:1 magnification | 1/16 flash power ratio

With the camera/lens set for the same f/stop, shutter speed, and ISO (f/5.6, 1/250 s, and 400, respectively), less light reached the sensor when the magnification ratio was increased from 1:1 to 2:1. So I increased the flash power ratio by one stop, from 1/16 power to 1/8 power.

Dimetron toy | 2:1 magnification | 1/8 flash power ratio


The last studio model is a toy Triceratops, photographed at a magnification ratio of 1:1. The toy is ~4.3 cm (~43 mm) long.

Triceratops toy | 1x magnification | 1/16 flash power ratio

As with the first model, when the magnification ratio was increased from 1:1 to 2:1 it was necessary to increase the flash power ratio by one stop.

Triceratops toy | 2x magnification | 1/8 flash power ratio

Gear Talk

The Fringer EF-FX Pro II lens mount adapter enables one to mount Canon lenses on Fujifilm X-Series digital cameras. As you can see, my Canon MP-E 65mm macro lens works well with the Fujifilm X-T3 camera.

The APS-C sensor inside the Fujifilm X-T3 digital camera has a crop factor of 1.5x, so the Canon MP-E 65mm macro lens has a focal length of ~98mm (35mm equivalent) when mounted on an X-T3. The net result is an increase in apparent magnification, …

Post Update Update

Just because something looks like a duck and seems to act like a duck doesn’t mean it’s a duck. And so it is with the Fringer EF-FX Pro II lens mount adapter — although it looks like an extension tube, it isn’t. Why was I deceived by its appearance? Because I didn’t understand something called “flange focal distance.”

For an interchangeable lens camera, the flange focal distance (FFD) … of a lens mount system is the distance from the mounting flange (the interlocking metal rings on the camera and the rear of the lens) to the film or image sensor plane. This value is different for different camera systems. Source Credit: Flange focal distance. Wikipedia.

For example, the FFD for Canon EF-mount is 44 mm and the FFD for Fujifilm X-mount is 17.7 mm. In order to make a Canon EF lens perform properly on a Fujifilm X-series camera body, an adapter must move the Canon lens 26.3 mm farther from the digital sensor. (44 mm – 17.7 mm = 26.3 mm)

Not surprisingly, when I remeasured the thickness of my Fringer EF-FX Pro II lens mount adapter it turns out to be closer to 26 mm than my original course estimate of 30 mm (cited below). The net result is the 17.7 mm FFD of my Fujifilm X-T3 combines with the 26.3 mm thickness of the Fringer adapter, resulting in an FFD of 44 mm — exactly the right FFD for the Canon lens to work properly on a Fujiflm X-series camera body!

It’s worth noting that “apparent magnification” is still a real thing when a camera lens designed for a “full-frame” camera is mounted on a camera with an APS-C size sensor. The image formed by the lens is exactly the same size regardless of the size of the digital sensor used to record the image, but a smaller part of the image is “seen” by an APS-C sensor than a full-frame sensor, resulting in the misperception that the image is magnified.

I hope this sets the record straight. Sincere apologies for any confusion I might have caused — I never heard of “flange focal distance” before I bought the Fringer adapter!

[Post Update: From this point forward everything I wrote is incorrect. Is my face red, or what? I’ll explain further when I have a chance to use a desktop computer to edit this post.] … although the images appear to be magnified more than can be explained by this fact alone.

In the opinion of this author, the Fringer adapter functions like an extension tube. The adapter is ~3.0 cm (30 mm) in thickness. There aren’t any optics inside the adapter but it does move the lens 30 mm farther from the camera sensor. That, my friends, is an extension tube.

I used an online, interactive Macro Extension Tubes Calculator to estimate the effect of a 30mm extension tube on photos taken with the Canon MP-E 65mm macro lens at magnification ratios of 1:1 and 2:1. The calculator shows the magnification ratio increased from 1:1 to ~1.5:1 and 2:1 to ~2.5:1 respectively.

Macro Extension Tubes Calculator | 1:1 magnification ratio

The values for “new minimum focusing distance” are in millimeters, despite the fact that the second “m” only appears when you click an insertion point in the box and scroll to the right. The values for magnification ratio seem reasonable; the values for new minimum focusing distance, not so much.

Macro Extension Tubes Calculator | 2:1 magnification ratio

[End of segment with information that is incorrect.]

Related Resources

Full-size photos of the preceding studio models are featured in the following blog posts. Those photos should help to give the reader a better sense of how much the subjects were magnified by the Fujifilm/Fringer/Canon MP-E 65mm macro lens rig.

Copyright © 2022 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Fujifilm X-T3: Focus Peak Highlight

September 6, 2022

I like to use manual focus to shoot photographs with my Fujifilm X-T3 digital camera. Set the small dial on the front of the camera to “M.” The beauty of manual focus on Fujifilm X-series cameras is back-button auto-focus still works!

When the small dial is set for “M” both manual focusing and back-button auto-focusing can be used in combination with what Fujifilm calls “Focus Peak Highlight,” or more simply, “focus peaking.”

The following YouTube video by pal2tech explains a technique that makes it much easier to see the focus peaking.

The process is simple. Set the camera to record JPG + RAF [Fujifilm’s proprietary raw format]. Select one of the black-and-white Fujifilm film simulations, e.g., ACROS. [More about Fujifilm film simulations in an upcoming blog post.]

The camera display will be black-and-white. As Chris Lee (pal2tech) explains in the preceding video, it’s much easier to see focus peaking on a black-and-white background.

JPG files saved to a memory card are black-and-white too, as shown below.

Buzz Lightyear plastic toy. [Focus Peak Highlight not shown.]

RAF files are saved in full color, as shown below.

Buzz Lightyear plastic toy.

Tech Tips

“Focus Peak Highlight” can be activated when the camera is set for manual focus mode. Using back-button focus (AF-L button) in manual mode enables one to retain full control of the exposure triangle, focus quickly, and see what’s in focus before shooting a photograph.

Fuji Back Button Focus (4:06), a YouTube video by Ashraf Jandali, provides a clear demonstration of how to use back-button focus on the Fujifilm X-T1. The same technique works with the Fujifilm X-T3.

Related Resources

Copyright © 2022 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Sample photos: Fringer EF-FX Pro II lens mount adapter

September 2, 2022

Oh look, it’s the “Made in the shade” monkey and Buzz Lightyear — two of my favorite studio models! Whenever I need to test new photography gear and/or techniques, they are always willing to help.

As promised in my last blog post, here are a couple of sample photos taken with my Canon EF 100mm macro lens mounted on a Fujifilm X-T3 digital camera body using a Fringer EF-FX Pro II lens mount adapter.

Single point focus was used for both photos. For the first photo, the focus point was located on the monkey’s right eye (bottom eye, relative to the photo). The real world size of the toy monkey is ~4.8 cm long.

“Made in the shade” monkey toy.

The Canon lens is controlled by the Fujifilm digital camera via the Fringer adapter. EXIF information (shown below) is available for each photo. As you can see, the photos in this set were taken using an aperture of f/5.6 and a shutter speed of 1/250 s, the default sync speed for the X-T3.

The “sweet spot” for the Canon EF 100mm macro lens is either f/5.6 or f/8. The depth of field is shallower at f/5.6 than f/8, but I thought the former might be a better test for sharpness than the latter.

Apple Preview | Inspector

Buzz Lightyear reporting for duty, sir. I don’t remember exactly where the focus point was located, but it was probably somewhere near Buzz’s face/head.

Buzz Lightyear plastic toy.

Regular readers of my blog might be happy to know Buzz will be back again for my next blog post.

What are the take-ways?

As you can see, my Canon macro lens works well with the Fujifilm camera. Does it perform better than my Fujinon 80mm macro lens? It’s too early to tell.

The APS-C sensor inside the Fujifilm X-T3 digital camera has a crop factor of 1.5x, so the Canon EF 100mm macro lens has a focal length of 150mm (35mm equivalent) when mounted on an X-T3. The net result is an increase in apparent magnification.

Some of the advantages of mounting the Canon lens on a Fujifim digital camera (rather than my older Canon DSLR camera) are really about features available on the X-T3 that enable me to get more from the same lens.

For example, there are only nine (9) focus points on my Canon EOS 5D Mark II; the Fujifilm X-T3 can be set for either 117 or 425.

The Canon EOS 5D Mark II doesn’t feature focus peaking; the Fujifilm X-T3 does. Focus peaking is a useful aid for focusing the Canon lens manually. More about this topic in my next blog post.

And of course, don’t forget that all of my Canon lenses (including several L-series lenses) can be used with my Fujifilm cameras via the Fringer adapter. I’m especially looking forward to testing the Fringer adapter with my Canon MP-E 65mm Macro lens.

In summary, the Canon/Fringer/Fujifilm rig works as expected. During limited testing, I discovered something that doesn’t work. (Again, more about this topic in an upcoming blog post.) The problem isn’t a deal-breaker and it should be something that can be fixed in a firmware update of the Fringer adapter. Editor’s Note: I just contacted Fringer as of this writing. I’m interested to see whether they are receptive to customer suggestions for improvement. I’ll update this post to include their response. Post Update: Fringer replied to my message promptly. Details in an upcoming blog post.

Related Resources

Copyright © 2022 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Jumping spider

March 15, 2022

The following photo shows a tiny spider carcass (~3/16″ long) that was inside an exuvia (~1 3/4” long) from a Common Green Darner dragonfly (Anax junius). The exuvia was collected on 17 June 2021 from a small pond in Prince William County, Virginia USA. I discovered the spider long afterward — too late to save its life.

17 JUN 2021 | PNC. Wm. County, VA | Jumping spider

Thanks to Eva Weiderman and Joseph Girgente — members of the “Odonate Larvae and Exuviae” Facebook group — for their help in identifying the specimen as a jumping spider, Family Saticidae.

Salticidae is one of several families of spiders with eight (8) eyes. My take-away from reading the reference on BugGuide entitled “Spider Eye Arrangements” is identification of this specimen to the genus and species level is challenging at best and impossible at worst.

In contrast, it’s well known that spiders use odonate exuviae for shelter. I wish the jumping spider had come out of its most excellent hidey-hole sooner!

17 JUN 2021 | PNC. Wm. County, VA | Anax junius exuvia

Related Resources

Tech Tips

The tiny jumping spider was photographed using a Panasonic Lumix FZ-300, Raynox DCR-250 close-up filter, Godox X2To/p flash trigger, and Godox TT685F plus Altura flash modifier. Camera settings: ISO 100 | f/7.1 | 1/60 s | 56.9mm (316mm, 35mm equivalent).

Raynox DCR-250 close-up filter” is a blog post in which I provide more information about how I use the Raynox with my Panasonic Lumix superzoom bridge cameras.

Copyright © 2022 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Determining final instar the Cham way

December 14, 2021

Did you notice I added a new text label to the annotated image of an exuvia from a Comet Darner dragonfly (Anax longipes) featured in my last two blog posts? I added the label in order to make the connection between this image and related ideas discussed in two other relatively recent blog posts (See Related Resources, below).

Remember that all dragonflies and damselflies have a 10-segmented abdomen, numbered from front to back. “S4” stands for abdominal segment four.

Counting odonate abdominal segments can be challenging sometimes. A good strategy to avoid mis-numbering is to begin counting abdominal segments from S10 (located toward the posterior end of larvae (nymphs)/exuviae) and work toward the thorax.

Final instar, the Cham way

There is a simpler way to estimate final instar than calculating instar equivalent.

Larvae in the final stage can be recognized by the length of the wing buds which cover the fourth abdominal segment. Source Credit: Field Guide to the larvae and exuviae of British Dragonflies, by Steve Cham, p. 30.

Look at the preceding annotated image. Notice the tips of the wing pads reach the fourth abdominal segment (S4), indicating the dragonfly larva that emerged from this exuvia had reached final instar. And that leads to the other idea I mentioned at the outset of this blog post.

Every odonate exuvia is a cast skin of the larva at F-0, the final instar, before it emerges to become an adult.

Turns out that’s another nugget of gold paraphrased from Steve Cham’s beautiful little book.

Post Update

The beauty of the Cham way of determining final instar is it’s simplicity. That’s the upside. The downside is there’s no way to determine the actual instar when it isn’t F-0.

For example, the following composite image shows dorsal views of a Common Green Darner (Anax junius) nymph (larva) and exuvia. As expected, the exuvia is F-0 because its wing pads cover S4. On the other hand, the nymph is F-? because its wing pads only reach S2.

Image used with written permission from Freda van den Broek.

Photo Credit: Both specimens (shown above) were collected by Freda van den Broek. The nymph was collected on 06 April 2020 from the Milwaukee River in Ozaukee County, Wisconsin USA, photographed, and released unharmed. The exuvia was collected from Ozaukee County too.

Related Resources

Copyright © 2021 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Proof of concept, revisited

December 10, 2021

In this blog post I’m going to show you how I used Photopea to annotate one of my photos. The workflow using Photopea is virtually identical to the way I annotate photos using Adobe Photoshop.

The original photo was edited using Apple Aperture (a discontinued photo editor) and Photoshop (for spot removal and sharpening). I could have attempted to edit the photo using Photopea but that wasn’t the point of my “Proof of concept” blog post.

Finished project

The first screen capture shows the finished project — I used it to reverse-engineer the steps that I took to create the annotated image and the settings I made along the way.

The “Layers” panel (located in the right sidebar) shows the finished project is compromised of seven layers, listed from bottom to top in the order they were created.

The “Background” layer is the photo itself. Go to File / Open… and navigate your computer to find a photo you would like to annotate.

View / Rulers

Before proceeding, it’s helpful to turn on “Rulers.” More about that later. In the Photopea menu bar, go to View and check Rulers.

Tech Tips: command-R (macOS) is a keyboard shortcut that can be used to toggle Rulers on/off.

The “View” menu also includes “Zoom In” and “Zoom Out” plus the associated keyboard shortcuts.

Press and hold the spacebar. Notice the arrow-shaped cursor turns into a hand that can be used to drag the canvas around the work space.

Post Update: View / Screen Mode > Fullscreen will scale up the Photopea window to fit the size of your computer screen. Fullscreen mode makes it much easier to work on fine details, especially when used in combination with the “Zoom Tool” and “Hand Tool”; the icon for both tools appears in the lower part of the left sidebar. Try it — you’ll like it! Uncheck “Fullscreen” in order to return to the desktop view. By the way, did you notice I added another guide line and Text layer for a follow-up blog post?

Text Tool settings: Title

The title is the first layer I added using the following selections: IBM Plex Sans (font type); SemiBold (font style); Size = 150 px; Color = Black; and “Aa” = Sharp.

Tech Tips: Text size is measured in pixels, not points. I’m not sure Photopea is calibrated correctly to convert points to pixels. Test it yourself using one of many online points-to-pixels calculators such as PT to PX Converter.

No matter, click the down arrow beside text “Size” and simply use the slider to select a text size that you like. You can also highlight the pixel size and type the exact number you prefer.

To begin adding text to your project, select the “Text Tool” (located in the left sidebar), click an insertion point on the photo and start typing. The default name for the new layer is “Text layer 1, 2, 3, etc.”

When you are finished, either delete the layer by clicking the “Cancel” button (X icon located near the right end of the Photopea menu bar) or save changes made to the layer by clicking the “Confirm” button (checkmark icon located to the right of the X) and the layer name changes so it is the same as the text you typed. In this case, I shortened the name of the layer to “Comet Darner dragonfly.”

With the layer selected, click on the “Move Tool” (left sidebar, at the top) and click-and-drag the text to reposition it exactly where you like.

Text Tool settings: Labels

Next I added a layer for “eye (1 of 2),” one of several labels for parts of the anatomy, using the following selections: IBM Plex Sans (font type); Regular (font style); Size = 100 px; Color = Black; and “Aa” = Sharp.

Tech Tips: The “Sharp” setting is used to avoid text with “jaggies,” that is text with saw tooth edges.

As an aid for aligning text, I created a blue guide line by clicking on the ruler along the top of the screen and dragging down to position the guide line on the photo. The guide line can be repositioned using the “Move Tool.”

Line Tool settings

The next layer I added is an arrow that points from the label to the anatomical part, in this case an eye. The settings I used for “Arrow 1” are shown in the following screen capture.

Tech Tips: Add a new vertical guide line for Arrow 1 by clicking on the ruler along the left side of the screen and dragging to the right to position the guide line on the photo. Right-click on the “Rectangle Tool” and select the “Line Tool.” I used shift-click-and-drag to draw a straight arrow that is aligned with the new blue guide line.

Add more layers

I followed the same steps described above to add a Text layer for “wing pads,” a new guide line for Arrow 2 and an arrow that points from the label to the anatomical part, and another Text layer for “prementum.”

Saving / Exporting

I saved the final image as a Photoshop document by selecting File / Save as PSD. The resulting PSD file can be reopened in Photopea in order to continue working on the project. Post Update: .psd files created by Photopea can be opened in Adobe Photoshop, although it is likely the font(s) you chose to use in Photopea are not available in Photoshop. Photoshop will prompt the user to resolve the problem.

I also saved the file as a PNG by selecting File / Export as.

What are the take-aways?

Open Photopea in a Web browser: (For what it’s worth, I prefer “Google Chrome.”) Since Photopea is Web-based, it runs on desktop computers, laptop computers, tablets, and smart phones. Having said that, I think it would be challenging to annotate a photo with a tablet or phone unless those devices are used in combination with an external keyboard and mouse. Not impossible, but definitely challenging.

My dear friend Phil Wherry passed away too long ago. Phil was my tech guru for many years. I’m the type of person who suffers from “approach avoidance” — I like to know what will happen BEFORE I do something. One of the best bits of tech advice Phil shared with me is “Don’t be afraid to experiment and see what happens.” That’s exactly what I did when I used Photopea to annotate one of my photos and I encourage you to do likewise. Good luck!

Related Resources

Copyright © 2021 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Proof of concept

December 7, 2021

Can Photopea be used to annotate photographs? Yes!

Do the results look as good as photos of the same subject that were annotated using Adobe Photoshop? You be the judge.

Comet Darner (Anax longipes) | exuvia (lateral)

In my opinion the results are of comparable quality and that’s saying a lot considering this is my first attempt at using Photopea to annotate a photo.

As expected, the workflow flowed slowly since this was the first time I used many of the tools featured in Photopea.

I saved the final image as a Photoshop document by selecting File / Save as PSD. The resulting PSD file can be reopened in Photopea in order to continue working on the project. I also saved the file as a PNG by selecting File / Export as.

The Backstory

The preceding photo shows an exuvia from a Comet Darner dragonfly (Anax longipes) that was collected by Stanley Caveney on 19 July 2021 from a pond at MeadowWoods in West Elgin, Ontario, Canada. Sincere thanks to Stan for kindly sharing this beautiful specimen!

Related Resource: Learn Photopea

Copyright © 2021 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Dark and moody

November 19, 2021

I spotted an emergent Uhler’s Sundragon (Helocordulia uhleri) during a photowalk along a mid-size stream at an undisclosed location in Prince William County, Virginia USA. The following photograph shows the exuvia from which the teneral adult emerged.

13 APR 2021 | PNC. Wm. County, VA | Uhler’s Sundragon | exuvia (ventral)

In the opinion of the author, larvae (nymphs)/exuviae from Family Corduliidae (Emeralds) and Family Libellulidae (Skimmers) can be challenging to differentiate and identify to the family level.

One way to differentiate Emerald from Skimmer larvae/exuvia is to look for a “ventromedial groove” in the prementum: it’s probably Corduliidae (Emeralds) if there is a ventromedial groove; it’s probably Libellulidae if there isn’t.

Look closely at a version of the preceding photo that was reformatted, rotated, and cropped to show an enlarged view of the prementum. You should notice a ventromedial groove on the basal half of the prementum, indicating this specimen is a member of Family Corduliidae (Emeralds).

13 APR 2021 | PNC. Wm. County, VA | Uhler’s Sundragon | exuvia (ventral)

Three raised structures on the underside of the prementum remind me of the hood ornament on a 1949 Lincoln automobile. (No, I wasn’t alive in 1949!)

Related Resources

Tech Tips

One reason I underexposed the photo is to add definition to the ventromedial groove and avoid overexposing the black background.

I prefer a white background for photographing odonate exuviae. Using a black background proved to be more challenging than I expected. More later in a follow-up blog post.

Copyright © 2021 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

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